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Knowledge-Based Sales: The Importance of Knowing Your Software Sales Cycle

by | Feb 10, 2011

One of the most important activities a sales department can undertake, in any organization, is the process of defining its sales cycle. Whether across product type, account owner, or territory; knowing the length of – and key defining stages in – the sales cycle can offer insight into buying trends and aid in accurate sales forecasting. This fact is true for all sales departments; however it is especially crucial for companies engaging in solution sales, where organizations are paying for diverse technical implementations to manage their most business-critical information. Since joining Snowbound in early 2010 I have witnessed firsthand the challenges a sales department can face when attempting to define and understand its sales cycles. When selling software solutions, the length, depth, and breadth of a sales cycle is ever changing and difficult to understand. For our customers, implementing a departmental or enterprise-wide solution can be a daunting task that incorporates numerous decision makers and significant budgetary obligations. Because of its dynamic nature, defining the document imaging sales cycle is an ongoing and ever-changing process.

For an organization like Snowbound’s, whose products transcend many industry verticals and organizational sizes, the challenge is all the more difficult. We are asked to apply an all-encompassing set of logic, timelines, and revenue projections to a non-linear, variable cycle. This process is made even more challenging by the fact that many of our customers are OEM partners who incorporate our technology into their solutions and sell it to end-user clients. This creates a black hole in the sales cycle where we as a third-party must account for another organization’s specific sales cycle and buying processes. We lack the crucial knowledge that can aid an organization in its attempts to manage the sales process.

So where does this leave us?  Sales departments must take it upon themselves to increase focus on the one constant in the equation, the customer. We must take the time, in a case by case manner, to understand the needs and wants of each customer in order to accurately define the sales cycle in total. A customer centric, knowledge-driven sales approach is the only way to achieve this understanding. The sales process should be as much about fact finding as it is about revenue generation. The more diverse the information maintained by a sales department, the better suited they are to understand their sales cycle. This is by no means a new or unique revelation but it is often overlooked in the sales process. The acquisition of revenue without the acquisition of knowledge teaches a sales department very little about where they are, where they’ve been, and where they are going. CRM systems have improved this knowledge and the ease by which sales departments acquire it, however frequently the information is poorly organized and unable to be properly mined.

Now that the calendar and fiscal year has come to a close, companies place increased focus on understanding their sales cycle in order to sum up the year gone by and set expectations for the coming one. I am interested to hear from our readers on the challenges they have faced in defining their sales cycle as well as opinions on expanding the knowledge base within a sales department. Who has been able to overcome the “black hole” in the cycle when control, expectations, and influence are no longer in your hands? What improvements to the sales process do you hope to make in the next year to better understand your sales cycle? Readers you are out there, what are your thoughts?

John Ohrenberger

Snowbound Software